There are, quite literally, hundreds of Android phones out there, so picking the best one can be a challenge. Here are the best Android phones you can buy at various price points to help you narrow it down.
The Best Premium Phones ($800+): Google Pixel 2 and Samsung Galaxy S9
If you’re looking for the cream of the Android crop, then look no further than the most recent flagship handsets from Google and Samsung. Each phone is offered in two different display sizes—the Pixel 2 (5-inch) and Pixel 2 XL (6-inch) from Google; Galaxy S9 (5.8-inch) and S9+(6.2-inch) from Samsung—so you can find the best footprint for your lifestyle.
Flagship phones offer premium cameras, premium features, and, naturally, a premium price tag.
Otherwise, both of these phones offer everything you could want from flagship-level handsets: the best displays, the fastest processors, and the best cameras on the market. You really can’t lose with either one.
That said, the primary difference between the two comes in the form of software. The Pixel 2 phones use pure, stock Android designed and updated by Google, where the Galaxy S9 and S9+ use Samsung’s flavor of Android. The core functionality—apps and whatnot—are the same, but the overall look and feel is definitely altered here.
Neither one is particularly “better” than the other when it comes down to using the phones—it’s very much a matter of preference and feel. Thought it’s worth mentioning that if accessories and third-party support are important you, you may want to look closer at the S9 than the Pixel.
Buy: Google Pixel; Galaxy S9
The Best Mid-Range Phones ($400-500): Essential Phone and Motorola Moto X4
While the premium Android phone market is traditionally held by just a couple of bigger names, the mid-range market is a lot more competitive. Manufacturers are struggling to keep performance up and costs down, all while still being financially successful. It’s a tough line to walk, but two brands do a great job of it: Motorola and Essential.
Want a solid phone without getting close to the almost-a-mortgage-payment range? Consider these two fantastic phones.
Both phones run nearly stock Android, offer exceptional performance for the cost, and have good cameras for the price range. When it comes down to it, however, the Essential Phone takes the top spot, only slightly edging out the Moto X4 as the better of the two.
What gives the Essential Phone the top spot? It has routinely gotten very prompt updates to the latest Android versions, and is currently one of the few phones running Android 8.1, Oreo. Solid support and timely updates? That’s a good look for any company.
Currently, the Moto X4 goes for $399, but you can oftentimes find it for less—it’s currently $299 on Amazon. The Essential Phone is $499 directly from Essential, but like the Moto, you can often find it on sale for as little as $400. That’s an absolute steal for a phone of this quality.
Buy: Essential Phone; Moto X4
Note: You may be wondering why we haven’t mentioned OnePlus, the current favorite of Android budget-buyers. While the phone you get for the money with OnePlus is hard to ignore, we simply can’t justify recommending them based on history. The company has routinely proven itself untrustworthy and careless, and for that reason you won’t find them on any of our “Best of” lists.
The Best Budget Phones (Under $300): Motorola Moto G6 and Honor 7X
Like the mid-range market, the budget market is also highly competitive. Everyone wants the quality of a flagship phone for a quarter of the price, and manufacturers continuously try to step up and provide a similar experience.
And when it comes to the best phones you can get for bottom dollar, the Moto G6 line and Honor 7X easily take the crown. At the time of writing, the G6 family is brand spankin’ new, so it’s actually not even available yet—Motorola says it’s “coming soon,” but if you’re in the market for a new handset that won’t break the bank, it should be worth the wait.
Just because these phones are in the budget category doesn’t mean they’re not worth looking at—if they meet all your needs you’ll end up paying a third the price of a flagship phone.
The G6 will come in three flavors: G6 (~$250), G6 Plus(~$299), and G6 Play (~$199)—prices haven’t been confirmed yet. The G6 and G6 Play both have the same 5.7-inch screen, while the G6 Plus has a larger, 5.9-inch panel.
As the suggested prices would indicate, there’s a certain progression here: the Play is the “entry” of the three, the standard G6 is the middle of the bunch, and the Plus holds the “flagship” status for this range. Each one is a little better than the last, with things like slightly faster processors and more RAM. Basically, if you can justify the extra hundred bucks over the Play, the Plus seems like it’s the way to go here.
In fact, if you don’t mind the larger screen size (this is seen as a “downside” to some users, after all), one could even argue that the G6 Plus is a better buy than the Moto X4 at the same price. That’s a tough call, so I’ll leave that one to you. But dollar for dollar, we’d take the G6 Plus.
If you’re looking for the most smartphone you can get and don’t want to spend a penny over $200, do yourself a favor and take a look at the Honor 7X. This phone comes in at $199, and offers nearly unprecedented performance for the money.
Featuring a 5.9-inch display, 4GB of RAM, and a 16MP dual-lens shooter, the 7X packs a wallop for such a small price tag. In all honesty, it’s probably the best bang for your buck in a smartphone today.
Final Considerations: Cameras and Cost Over Time
There’s more to picking a good smartphone than just price, and we’d be remiss not to discuss those things, too.
For example, the lower the price point, the worse the camera. That’s an unavoidable fact at this point, and while some phones may offer good cameras for the money, there’s still not going to be a comparison to the most modern flagships. So if a truly excellent camera is important to you, then you’re going to want to look in the higher price ranges. Sorry—lust after a premium camera, pay premium prices.
There’s more to the price than just the upfront cost. Consider the cost over the lifespan of the phone.
Otherwise, you’ll also want to consider longevity. Not necessarily how long the phone will physically last, per se, but how long it will be supported. Typically speaking the more you pay for a phone, the more you should expect in terms of updates and future support. The primary exception we’ve seen here is with Essential, which has done an excellent job of keeping its hardware updated. It’s worth mentioning, however, that the phone did start off a flagship-level pricing and has dropped dramatically from there.
But, traditionally, when a phone doesn’t cost much, manufacturers simply can’t afford to keep it updated. It’s a matter of economics, so I’d enter into a cheaper phone with the understanding that it probably won’t see any Android updates. Then, if it does, you can be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, there’s also the matter of economics on your part. You could spend $800 on a phone today with the expectation of using it for three years—that’s roughly $266 per year. Or you could spend $250(ish) now and just get a new phone every year.
That line of thinking also operates under the assumption that your phone will last three years—we all know how quickly technology moves, so three years is a long life for a phone. If you buy it expecting a two year life span, you could just buy a new $400 phone every year. Suddenly that may seem like a much more desirable option.
Good thing there’s a a helpful website with a handy guide to finding the best Android phone for your money, huh?